On Wednesday, a contentious ICT Practitioners Bill 2020 went through the final stage – third reading – in the Kenyan Parliament. The Bill now awaits Presidential Assent before it is turned into law.
The third time is the charm. The first proposed ICT Practitioners Bill was introduced to the Kenyan parliament in 2016 but was rejected on the basis of repetitiveness. It then resurfaced in 2018 and suffered a similar fate. It was then reintroduced in Parliament in November 2020 with very minimal changes from the previous ones and this time it passed through the first, second and finally the third stage of reading.
What the ICT Practitioners Bill is all about
The bill seeks to establish an ICT Practitioners Institute for training, registration, licensing, practice and setting standards for ICT professionals in Kenya. The proposed Institute will also issue annual licenses to the practitioners at a fee.
Generally, because of low barriers to entry, the IT industry has always attracted any person with an interest in that field. Many renowned IT specialists did not study IT at University and some are school dropouts. The newly appointed Meta CISO Guy Rosen, for example, dropped out of Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI) in the first year.
Suffice to say, the requirements proposed by the Bill will be a hurdle to many young people wishing to join the profession but do not meet the threshold set by the body. The bill also proposes to introduce an annual licensing fee for the ICT practitioners. This could kill the dreams of young people who want to join the profession but lack money to pay for the annual licenses.
Kenya and Africa by large still have a huge gap in IT talent. This gap has only been made smaller by practising IT professionals who do not have an educational background in the field.
In a country where IT talent is in short supply, the bill should have come up with solutions on ways to upskilling, reskilling and training IT talent. It should have identified barriers limiting the effectiveness of the market and then propose interventions. Overall, it should have proposed solutions that seek to promote Kenya’s innovation ecosystem and not kill it.